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ASU punter Michael Sleep-Dalton hopes for consistency in 2018

ASU punter Michael Sleep-Dalton warms up before a spring practice in Tempe. (Photo by Tyler Strachan/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz. — For ASU punter Michael Sleep-Dalton, spring practice is a time to get back.

The redshirt junior punter entered last season as the heir to the reliable Matt Haack, who’s now pinning teams deep for the Miami Dolphins. For most of the lead-up to last season, Sleep-Dalton appeared to be ready to fill that role.

“I thought he was in a good place last year in training camp,” special teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “Then he got hurt. It set him back and he never recovered throughout the season.”

A right leg injury forced the ambidextrous Aussie to kick with one good leg, diminishing the weapons in his arsenal. With starting quarterback Manny Wilkins as the lone backup punter on the roster, there wasn’t much the Sun Devils could do.

Sleep-Dalton said he did not play a single game at 100 percent health in 2017, coming closest to it in ASU’s bowl game loss.

His production mirrored his health, as Sleep-Dalton was tied for 90th in the nation in punting, averaging 39.9 yards on 62 punts.

This season, the Sun Devils have walk-on punter Joseph Zepp incoming from Saguaro High School, where he averaged over 43 yards per punt, including a 70-yard boot.

While there’s not expected to be a position battle, another mediocre start by Sleep-Dalton could mean an open door for the freshman.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, Sleep-Dalton focused on his body this winter in order to prevent another detrimental injury.

But just staying healthy isn’t enough to guarantee success.

The key: consistency.

“He can hit a 5.0 hangtime on a 50-yard punt,” Slocum said. “It’s the ability to do it time and time again, and that’s what gets guys in the NFL.”

To reach that level, Slocum has his punter watch various NFL punters, such as Thomas Morstead of the New Orleans Saints and fellow Australian Jordan Berry of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both Morstead and Berry have varied approaches, deploying the American-style spiral, as well as the Australian-style torpedo punt. Both will be keys this season for ASU, as the spiral travels farther, but the torpedo can be used in short-field scenarios to pin opposing offenses deep in their own zone.

Slocum has been working with Sleep-Dalton to get him to that level.

“He’s evolving technique-wise,” Slocum said. “I think he’s grown over the last couple weeks with things we’ve worked on and I see him getting better on a daily basis.”

Now healthy and will a full bag of tricks at his disposal, how does Sleep-Dalton feel his production will be impacted?

“I’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with.”

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